I Just Got a Covid Vaccine

Felted Coronovirus by Brooke Schmeds in Instructables.

Well, maybe. This morning I began my participation, along with 30,000 other people in the world, in the third stage trial of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. A doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center gave me an exam, then a nurse took my temperature, checked my blood pressure and administered a nasal Covid test and drew blood for an antibody test. After a short wait, another nurse gave me an injection that has a 50/50 chance of being the vaccine or a placebo. Then they made me sit around for a half hour to make sure that I didn’t have any adverse side effects (I didn’t).

Here’s how Pfizer describes the vaccine I may have received:

The investigational vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. It is a kind of vaccine that gives a body’s cells instructions to make viral proteins that can be recognized by the immune system. It contains a small part of the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. By delivering the mRNA to the body’s cells, the viral protein is expressed and an immune system response is generated against it, with the goal of preventing COVID-19 disease. The vaccine does not contain any live virus or the parts of the virus that can make a person sick.

In a month I’ll return to Kaiser for a booster shot as well as more visits for blood tests to see if my immune system made antibodies. They also gave me an app to report symptoms as well as my very own personal Covid test kit in case I have Covid symptoms (that, to be clear, won’t be caused by the vaccine but could happen if I, say, start attending TikTok influencer parties in the Hollywood hills). Don’t worry, I’m too old for TikTok influencer parties.

I won’t ever know the results of the antibody tests. If my covid test came up positive they will let me know. Once an approved vaccine is released I’ll find out if I got the vaccine or the placebo. For my troubles they gave me a $200 payment.

I heard about the vaccine trial in a local paper and registered on the Pfizer website immediately. I really want to help people in this crisis but since Kelly is at risk for Covid I can’t do things like volunteer at my local food bank. I thought this study would be a good way to help stop this horrible pandemic while not putting Kelly at risk. Plus I thought it would be interesting to see what a vaccine trial is like from the inside.

If you’d like to sign up for the trial head over to www.covidvaccinestudy.com. Sign up soon because I think slots are filling up.

Good News

Kelly made it through an eight hour open heart surgery yesterday. Her surgeon reported that the operation was, in his words, “successful if tedious.” She has a new valve and a repaired aorta. This was a difficult and scary surgery and Kelly has a long recovery ahead of her.

I want to thank all of you Root Simple readers for your kind words and prayers. It means a lot to Kelly and I to be surrounded by so many loving people. I want to also thank our friend Caroline who came over yesterday to sit outside with me and calm me down during an excruciating wait. And many thanks to the clergy and parishioners of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral for helping us prepare for the surgery and for sending me words of encouragement over the past few days.

Because of Covid I can’t visit the hospital which adds another layer of stress to this ordeal. But we are thankful to have good insurance and access to the kind of surgeon who can tackle such a complicated operation. Looking forward to bringing Kelly home in a few days.

A Note

Dear Root Simple readers,
Kelly has to go in for another open heart surgery later this month to fix some issues related to her aortic dissection that happened four years ago. It’s not an emergency surgery this time so we’re optimistic for a good outcome. We are thankful to have insurance and a good surgeon.

I need to take some time off blog posting until after the surgery. I promise to post updates and be back to this blog soon. In the meantime your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

RIP Michael Brooks

I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve been so wracked with grief for someone I never met. My favorite podcaster, Michael Brooks, died unexpectedly on Monday of a blood clot at the young age of 36. I’m heartbroken.

There’s an intimacy to podcasting and radio, to the regular sound of someone’s voice in your life even if that voice is thousands of miles away. Micheal kept me company for years during my chores. He was a rare talent, a democratic socialist with a sense of humor and an internationalist with a deep empathy for working class people all over the world. That empathy was born of experience. Michael grew up knowing what it’s like to not know where your next meal is coming from and to get evicted from your house as a child. He was also the only person I know who could talk Gramsci and basketball.

I have no idea how I found his podcast but I remember the moment that kept me listening. He and a guest were discussing spirituality. Rather than the dismissiveness that you might expect from the old school left, Michael thought that we needed to integrate spirituality and politics. In a memorial show on the Majority Report, his sister Lisha Brooks recounted their last conversation. Michael was, as he often did, talking about spirituality. As he asked in that last conversation, “Why allow Steve Bannon to have a monopoly on the Bhagavad Gita?” Amen.

I have to be honest that I’ve been very gloomy of late and often find myself doomscrolling the covid news and the latest twitter outrage. I took great comfort every week in Michael’s honesty and insight about the trouble we’re in combined with his humor. Michael was only getting started. I hoped that, as I grew old, I would see him become a major media personality and politician and a voice for working people. His passing is a tremendous loss.

I have a lot to learn from his example. My discussion of politics on this blog has fallen into two categories. Early on I was snarky, arrogant and mean. Then I just clammed up while, all around me, an ideology of toxic individualism has created the terrible crisis we are now in. My writing beat, what has, for lack of a better term, been called “urban homesteading” is poisoned by that individualism which manifests in a concept of self sufficiency whose ultimate destination is a lonely existence in a doomstead bunker. I’ve always tried to point out that we’re all in this together, that we need to build up our households and our communities. It’s not one or the other.

Michael was just beginning to formulate a strategy that would normalize ideas like medicare for all and the plain, decent notion that we should respect and take care of working people in this country. He said to his sister in that last conversation that he felt that we needed to, “build a world where all can listen to each other without turning to violence. This doesn’t mean that we give up the fight for justice. We need to fight that fight more skillfully.”

You’re Wearing a Mask

San Francisco big shots in their masks.

This story from the San Francisco Examiner from November of 1918 will sound familiar. By late 1918 the first wave of flu cases had passed and the city decided, with much fanfare, to lift the requirement to wear a mask:


Signal Sounds Promptly at the Stroke of 12 and Those Who Do Not Doff Gauze Are Ridiculed

Much Material Accumulates in Drug Stores, but Most of Discards Are Deposited in Gutters

All San Francisco was ready to discard the influenza masks right on the dot of 12 o’clock yesterday, an the crowds that stood in front of street and tower clocks watchfully waited doffed the enforced camouflage without a second’s delay. But those who attuned their ears for the welcome shrieks of factory sirens were just a trifle nervous two or three minutes after the hour, for the din was slow in gaining volume.

Five minutes after the hour 95 percent had doffed their masks and were laughing back at the sunlight and into one another’s faces as if they had just made a great and delightful discovery. A few minutes later few masks were to be seen save those which littered the sidewalks or had been hung up in conspicuous places.

The driver of an ice truck attached his masks to the hood of the machine and spectators, taking the hint, decorated the hood with scores of them.

Fifteen minutes after the hour the newsboys began to take noisy note of those who still wore masks. A masked workingman in a corduroy coat and trousers was followed at Market and Powell streets by a dozen boys who shouted in chorus “take off your mask.” Made stubborn by the baiting, or for some other reason, the man continued to wear his mask while they heckled him.

Not a few remembered Dr. Hassler’s request to deposit the masks at convenient drug stores because of the scarcity of surgical gauze. These will be delivered to the Red Cross, sterilized and used to make surgical dressings.

As will also seem familiar, the decision was premature. By January of 1919 the flu raged back and Mayor James Rolph ordered the masks back on.

A second wave, masks in the gutter and mask Kevins and Karens–what can I add to this? In lieu of a conclusion, I’ll just point out that Iggy Pop may have composed the anthem of our times back in 2001.